The worst kept secret in fashion is out. Daniel Lee's former number two Matthieu Blazy has been announced as the main man at Bottega Veneta. Now the ink on the contract has dried, what can we expect from the talented designer once he has his feet wedged under the proverbial table?
As is the digital style sleuths wont, the likes of Phoebe Philo and, er, Kanye West were speculatively linked with the gig this past week, but there was never any danger as to who the new charge would be. Almost like a conglomerate facsimile of Liverpool's boot room era, Francois Pinault's Kering group has taken the approach of promoting from within rather than chasing the stardust name. The successes of Alessandro Michele at Gucci and Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen suggest they're on to something. Blazy is still relatively under the radar, but could hardly be considered a rookie hire either. A job of this ilk has long been in the offing.
So how will the incoming chief make an impression at a brand that is already red hot right now? Just moments after the reveal was made, so too did it transpire that the designer's first collection will be shown at Milan Fashion Week in February 2022. This no doubt spells the end of the BV Salon shows, which will be remembered for that infamous day in Berlin. Depending on who you believe, the die was ultimately cast on Lee's fate after that Berghain fall out.
Blazy worked under Raf Simons' tutelage at the Belgian's eponymous label in his formative years, before joining up with him again during the legend's controversial-slash-wholly-underrated tenure at Calvin Klein. He cut teeth in couture working on Maison Martin Margiela's Artisanal line, and then moved onto Céline, operating under Philo and alongside Lee as a senior designer.
"I think it will be good to have a 'designer' in the creative director role at a large house," explains Iolo Edwards, director of High Fashion Talk. "I'm not sure what Daniel's approach was but as opposed to many of the marketing and styling heavy creative directors that have been appointed recently, Matthieu is more of a pure kind where his designs are the highlight."
It was at MMM (now known merely as Maison Margiela) where Blazy really started to catch the eye. “[I] like clothes that are worn and used,” he told Document Journal in 2015. “There is nothing more boring than something not worn — it’s just deadstock," he once told Document Journal. "My job at Margiela was the first one I had where I could use my passion for vintage clothing and be completely honest about it. I love vintage because you have the idea of something very unique, often unbranded and completely emotional.”
Despite his best attempts to stay in the shadows (this is a company policy, which attributes all work to the collective rather than the individual), the ever fearless Suzy Menkes broke rank by exposing the then 30-year-old to the wider fashion world. "You can’t keep such a talent under wraps," she wrote in a review for British Vogue, trumpeting the collection as "exceptional." A certain Mr. West clearly agreed.
Whenever a wingman takes over in the hot seat, there's always a tendency to compare them to the big dog that came before. A cursory Google search yields zero interview results for Blazy, which would give you cause to believe that like Lee, he prefers to retain a low profile. His candidly brilliant Instagram account begs to differ.
Among the usual highfalutin gallery shots and behind-the-velvet-rope fashion fare, a quick rifle through also yields images of pints, phallic candles, and Atlético Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann. It's down to earth and off the cuff, a world removed from the curatorial bollocks that plagues much of the platform nowadays. If BV returns with a rebooted account, here's hoping Blazy has a big say in the content. It's a house, if not an entire industry, that could do with more humor.
Circling back to the clothes, even though Blazy is more than capable of putting his own stamp on Bottega Veneta, it appears the handing over of keys will see a gradual evolution rather than outright revolution. That makes sense when you consider the company was still posting increased revenues (by 4.8 percent to €1.21 billion) during the pandemic. Aside from the financials, it's impossible to argue against the relevance Lee brought back to the house either, be it with his redefined intrecciato weave or even the color green. It seems certain we'll see plenty more of the same – after all, if it isn't broke don't fix it.
"It's hard to know what will change because Matthieu has been there alongside Daniel and from what I've been told has been responsible for most of the hit products," explains Edwards.
"I'm not sure if much of BV will change as a brand; they've spent so much time and money developing their brand codes and putting them out there to be established. However, I do think that the way they will go about it will be different and a bit less standoffish. I know there are a lot of great people at the brand that will stay that are really warm, social and welcoming that I think will be looking forward to doing things in a more social way than secret lockdown shows."
As for what's next for Lee, who knows? If you believe a WWD report, then the outgoing boss struggled with communication and often left employees feeling alienated. A quiet bloke from Yorkshire who, let's not forget, found dealing with the media difficult in his early days, perhaps it's time to take a step back and recharge the batteries. After all, three years in this industry is like a lifetime.
"I think people are fatigued by boring clothes being sold through marketing, hype and celebrity placement, or even just logos," adds Edwards. "Especially after a super commercial season where brands really were focused on selling, the fashion community wants to see interesting clothes and to be able to be impacted by design, not who's wearing it." If those words ring true, then Bottega Veneta has made the perfect appointment in Blazy.